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Tear Jerker / The Twilight Zone (1959)

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As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned.

  • "A Stop at Willoughby". While the Downer Ending is enough (Gart is a depressed executive who is Longing for Fictionland and is basically Driven to Suicide), the Reality Subtext makes it worse. Rod Serling at the time of the episode also felt depressed and was stressed out by work, and the train stops in the episode are real Northwest Corridor stops on Amtrak.
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  • In "The Lonely", a prisoner condemned to live alone on an asteroid is given a female robot for companionship and falls in love with her. When he gets a pardon, there's no room for the robot on the ship home. When he refuses to leave her behind, the ship's captain shoots her. The prisoner comes to his senses and leaves the asteroid. What really clinches it is the closing narration. This robot, which he loved and which saved his life, is now obsolete and abandoned, turning to rust.
    On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space, is a fragment of a man's life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate in the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them. All of Mr. Corey's machines - including the one made in his image - kept alive by love. But now, obsolete... in The Twilight Zone.
  • From "Long Distance Call": The father's plea to his dead mother, through the toy telephone she has supposedly been talking to his son through, after convincing the child to drown himself so they can be Together in Death, pleading with her to let his son (who paramedics are trying to resuscitate downstairs) live.
    Father: If you really love him, let him live...
    • His plea is heard and the boy lives.
  • The ending part of "I Sing the Body Electric". The children, all grown up, have to move on to their new lives and new homes, yet they will still visit their electrical "grandmother" from time to time. It's so heartbreaking, and at the same time heartwarming.
  • "The Passersby" revolves around a household in the South at the end of The American Civil War. The people living there come to realize that they're dead, and that the road in front of the house leads to the afterlife. While the Confederate soldier is willing to move on, his wife desperately clings to what little familiarity she has left...that is, until a tall, bearded man wearing a stovepipe hat approaches.
    Woman: I'm afraid.
    Lincoln: Of course, you are; I am, too. "Of all the wonders that I yet have heard/It seems to me most strange that men should fear/Seeing that death, a necessary end/Will come when it will come." That's from Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. You see, my dear...I'm dead too. I guess you might say that I'm the last casualty of the Civil War. And I'm the last man on this road.
  • In "A Piano In The House", Jerkass theatre critic Fitzgerald Fortune discovers that the titular player piano has the power to make people reveal their inmost secrets when certain music is placed within it. He decides to use this power to play a cruel joke on one of the people at his wife's birthday party, a jovial, heavyset woman named Marge. The music makes Marge reveal to everyone that she secretly wishes she was as light and delicate as a snowflake, and likes to imagine herself as a graceful ballerina named Tina. While in her trance she's quite graceful. At first, everyone is laughing, until Marge reveals her secret desires and dreams of being loved by somebody, as she takes his hand into hers and melts away. Once the music is off, Marge comes back to reality and realizes what she's just done. Of course, at that point, the only person who was still laughing was Fitzgerald.
    • Which is followed by Fitzgerald deciding to play a piece intended to "bring out the devil", only for his wife Esther to switch the music with Brahms's "Lullaby". The music causes Fitzgerald to reveal himself for what he really is: a spoiled, lonely, and scared little boy afraid of everything and everyone. He's terrified of love and friendship because he doesn't know how to respond to them, and so lashes at out others with pettiness. He's hurt Esther because he didn't know how to reciprocate her love, mocked Marge because he's jealous of how she can be the life of the party with her genuine kindness and sense of humor, and criticized Gregory Walker, a playwright secretly in love with Esther, because he himself lacks the creativity Gregory has. The partygoers, including Esther and Gregory, leave, and Fitzgerald throws a temper tantrum—"If you leave me, I'm going to be very naughty!" He runs around the room, destroying his furniture, decorations, and eventually the piano's music, bringing him back to normal. Marvin, the elderly butler of the house, then enters, and Fortune growls "Don't laugh at me."
    • What makes it even worse is that, instead of gloating or treating Fortune's breakdown like a triumph, every guest at the party—including the people he's hurt—realizes just how sad and pathetic he really is and silently leaves, rather than mocking him. Even Marge, who is perhaps the most embarrassed by Fortune's cruel joke, looks on him with pity and encourages everyone to go as quietly as possible.
  • In "Midnight Sun", a man breaks into the two main character's apartment and gulps down their water. At first, he would seem like just another brutish marauder taking whatever the heck he pleases during this desperate, lawless crisis. But then, he sees the paintings in the young woman's apartment and softens. They remind him of how his wife used to paint. He shares his personal story about how the wife died during childbirth, and how their baby perished in the growing heat. As he leaves the two in peace, he sadly moans to himself that he's not a bad guy. It's a sobering testament about how the crisis at hand has turned good (if grieving) men into desperate souls with nothing to lose. Arguably worse with The Reveal that none of it was real. The world is doomed, but not because of heat, but of ice. The Earth is leaving it's orbit and slowly freezing over, and the whole episode was the main character having a fever dream caused by the encroaching cold.
  • In "Night Call" from the original series, an elderly crippled woman is repeatedly called by someone who wants to talk to her. She screams at him to stop bothering her. Later, she gets a call from the operator telling her there was no other line calling her, and tells her a telephone wire fell on a graveyard (during the storm most likely). She goes there and sees a wire fell on her fiance's grave. She recalls to her nurse that she was very demanding at having things her way; one day she took the wheel and lost control, she crashed and he flew through the windshield, and left her crippled. She realized he's calling her so she won't be lonely. She waits that night and he finally calls... to tell her he'll leave her alone, because he always does what he tells her. She begs him to talk to her and she says she didn't mean what she said. Hearing no answer she cries, realizing she's alone again.
  • It's a blink and you'll miss it type of moment, but Jason Foster gets one in "The Masks". At about ten to midnight all his family has to say is about how unbearable their masks are. He asks "is there nothing else you have to say to me?" in a tone of disappointment and he just gets more complaining while being called crazy. From his tone of voice, it sounded as if Jason still had at least one small hope that his family could show some kindness, but instead all they give him is incessant pettiness and cruelty.
    • Also, during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, he mentions that Emily's marriage to Wilfred "broke the heart of her dear, late mother, in just about every sense of the word." For some reason, this has been omitted from most broadcasts, but just goes to show that Emily's self-absorbed spinelessness affected more than one person for the worse.
  • "The Big Tall Wish". A washed up boxer is able to win his comeback match thanks to the wish his girlfriend's son made. The boxer discovers this and feels that something like a wish is an impossible explanation, and despite the boy's heartbreaking pleas to believe in it he just can't, and ultimately the wish is undone. On top of that, the failure of his wish causes the boy to finally give up his belief in miracles.
  • "Night of the Meek" is a brutal combination of this and Heartwarming.
  • In Real Life, the death of TZ writer Charles Beaumont, who died tragically at the age of 38 from possibly both Alzheimer's disease and Pick's disease which caused him to mentally deteriorate and age prematurely over the last few years of his life.
  • Watch "Time Enough at Last" and try not to feel your heart die when you see the tragic fate of poor innocent Henry Bemis.
    Henry: It's not fair! There was time now!
  • A good part of "In Praise of Pip", but especially when Max Phillips first realizes that Pip has been mortally wounded in The Vietnam War.
    Max: Pip is dying. My kid is dying. In a place called South Vietnam. There's not even supposed to be a war going on there, but my son is dying. It's to laugh. I swear, it's to laugh.
    • Max hugging and kissing Pip and then begging for his life is both the sweetest and saddest thing. For further context: Max is greeted by a young version of Pip, who calls his father his "best buddy," at a carnival they used to attend when the boy was little. They have a wonderful time revisiting their favorites rides and games, but then Pip tells his father that he has to go...because his real self is dying in Vietnam. Max desperately chases Pip through a fun house mirror maze, but can't catch him. Hopeless and distraught, Max falls to his knees and begs God to take him instead—he'll give anything to save his son. God apparently takes the deal, and though Max dies, Pip is honorably discharged with a mild handicap and returns to the same carnival, remembering the advice his "best buddy" gave him.
  • "He's Alive". From the realization that neo-Nazi Peter Vollmer is nothing more than a sad child wanting love, to Ernst's constant reminders that Peter's ideas are not as new as he claims.
  • The Reveal at the end of "Five Characters In Search of An Exit" - The characters are simple toys, and that's all they ever were. It does include a Ray of Hope Ending at the end where Serling reveals that the toys will be loved and cared for by children.
  • "The Old Man In The Cave". Poor Mr. Goldsmith, left as the last man alive in the ruins of his town, after trying his damndest to save everyone from radiation poisoning that they could have easily avoided if they just listened to him.
  • Poor, poor, poor Jess-Belle.
    • The scene where her mother suspects, then promptly finds out that she (accidentally) sold her soul to buy Granny Heart's love potion. Her voice is raw as she demands her poor daughter to tell her what she did. In a rather sad case of "what happened to the mother", one can only assume she'll live out her days not only as a widow, but without her daughter or any grandchildren to call her own.
  • "Judgement Night"
    • Even the the episode is a look into one man's private Hell for his sins, it's heartbreaking seeing how his actions impacted everyone around him. And the worst part? He's damned to endure it over and over for the rest of eternity.
    • During the attack on the ship, we see the doll of a little girl, floating on the water as a poignant testament of how one victim of the attack died prematurely.
    • Also during the attack, we see Miss Stanley, who behaved kindly and politely despite Lanser's strange behavior, hanging out a window, trying desperately to get air as the fire burns the salon behind her. Finally, she screams and sinks out of sight to a rather nasty death behind the ship's walls.
  • Stansfield having his girlfriend start a new life without him after his plan to be with her failed in "The Long Morrow". It's one of the saddest cases of Poor Communication Kills in television: Stansfield was going to be put in cryogenic sleep on a 40-year space mission, keeping him young while his girlfriend aged. Determined to stay with her, he voluntarily disconnected himself from the cryogenic chamber—meaning he was completely alone for forty years in space—only to discover, upon returning to Earth, that she's put herself in cryogenic sleep to remain ageless, too, missing out on forty years of her own life. Now eternally the wrong ages, they realize they can never be together, and so part.
  • "The Changing of the Guard" has Professor Ellis Fowler being forced into retirement after 50 years of devoting his life to teaching. Heartbroken and feeling everything he tried to do for his students was all for naught, he decides to kill himself. Before he is able to, he goes back into his classroom and his reunited with his late students who all died honorably (in war saving others and while trying to find a cure for cancer) and thanked him for the lessons and bravery he taught them. Doubling as heartwarming ultimately, it's certainly relatable to people of all ages (particularly adults) who question their worth and place in the world and wonder what, if any, legacy they will leave behind.
  • The opening of "Mr. Denton on Doomsday", where town drunk Al Denton is forced to humiliate himself for a bottle of alcohol by a group of town bullies. The leader of the gang then shatters the bottle and tosses the remains unto the street, where Denton desperately guzzles down what's left before lying down, crying in humiliation. Serling's narration just adds to the emotion of the scene.
    Narrator: Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man who's begun his dying early-a long, agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a leg or part of his soul to have another rise up and shake the dirt from his body, and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness.
  • The way Becker recounts the sickening torture and misery he and the other prisoners at Dachau were forced to endure under SS Captain Lutze in "Deaths-Head Revisited" is simply heartbreaking, and is only magnified by the unrepentant Lutze's own casual flippancy when confronted with the cruelty he inflicted on them.
    • Even when he's passing judgement on Lutze, the expression on his face shows that he doesn't enjoy doing this. His confronting Lutze at the beginning sounds so broken and sad, as if he just wants closure, even an apology...of course Lutze's incredulous reaction makes that impossible.
  • "I Am The Night, Color Me Black" has a brief moment in the climax where the Reverend asks Jagger, probably the only person who had ever stood up for him and his congregation, a simple question.
    The Reverend: (tears in his eyes) When you killed him, Jagger, when you blew his brains out, there was no regret, was there?
    Jagger: You know it!
  • "Nothing in the Dark". Wanda's fear of Death become so great that she becomes a shut-in, and as an old woman a contractor arrives to eventually tear down her apartment. His speech about his job to destroy old buildings to allow for new ones and for society to continue to prosper mirrors Death's true purpose: Neither are evil, but needed to allow the world to continue, and when Death does arrive in the form of the kindly young policeman she helped, she finds it's nothing to be afraid of at all.
    • The context of Wanda's situation. When she was younger, she was happy and carefree, going out into the sun and warmth to enjoy life to the fullest. And then eventually, she realized Death was appearing more often because she was growing old, and nearing what would someday be her final days. Since then, she's come to live out her days in fear, hiding in a cold, dark, drafty house. She's between a rock and a hard place, between existing in abject misery or surrendering her life to Death. Thank goodness Death not only ends it, but is kind about it too.
  • The ending of "On Thursday We Leave For Home", as Tragic Villain Captain Benteen realizes the consequences of his stubbornness too late, and he is left futilely pleading for the ship to come back and not leave him stranded on the desert planet.
    Benteen: Please... I... I want to go home.
  • In "Living Doll", despite the episode's overall creepy atmosphere, there's something heartbreaking about Christie begging her stepfather Erich to give back her doll, only for him to give what is essentially a thoughtless, misplaced act of Kick the Dog.
    Christie: (Tearfully) Daddy! Daddy, please!
    Erich: (Angrily) I'm not your daddy!!
  • "Mr. Bevis" and "Cavender is Coming" may be seem like far cries from sad, but both are about a character who is granted the miracle of experiencing a better life. But then, they find it's at the cost that the friends and neighbors from their former life don't know them.
  • "Nightmare as a Child" has Helen Foley bury her hands in her face when Markie (aka her childhood self) brusquely recites every traumatic detail of what happened the night her mother was murdered. It's so painful for her to look back on that night that tarnished her childhood with fear and heartache.
  • "Eye of the Beholder".
    • A great deal of it questions what measure is "ugly", as we look at Miss Janet Tyler struggle with being a human soul with a deformed face. ...Or rather, "deformed" according to society's standards. From start to finish, it's a powerful story that questions the definition of "beauty" and "normal".
    • The ending where the doctor, the nurse, and the staff sadly see off Janet Tyler as she goes to live with the other "ugly people". Even though their own faces are our definition of "ugly", they're nonetheless human enough to quietly weep out of pity that they couldn't help Miss Tyler.
  • "Dust" has a innocent father desperately trying to save his son from being hanged (because of an accidental hit-and-run of a child). He's tricked by a crooked peddler to buy a bag of "magic dust" (really just dirt from the road) that will "turn their hatred into compassion and kindness". The sight of him trying to use the dust on the people attending his son's execution is painfully pitiful. When we seemingly hear the young man be hanged, the father is stunned before he lets out a big tearful "NO!" ...Thankfully, the boy is okay, because the noose broke.
  • "The Silence". While neither party is exactly sympathetic, it's nothing short of a Downer Ending when you realize betting has changed their lives for the worse. One party now has to live with both his lack of honor and the exposure of his fraudulent wealth; and the other party is now broke and unable to speak ever again.
  • "Miniature" has Charley's speech towards the end about how his "imaginary" world inside the museum's dollhouse is real. He's imagining that the doll inside is crying because she projects Charley's loneliness. This goes out to anyone on the spectrum who's ever had feelings, but didn't know how to express them to others.
  • "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" has an ending that reveals Horace's childhood "friends" weren't so much friends as they were a bunch of bullies who were annoyed by him and beat him up at least once. Horace sits in the abandoned Ghost Town of his childhood neighborhood, bitterly realizing that his childhood, the one he so worshipped well into his adult years, was actually one long miserable nightmare.
  • In "Spur of the Moment", if Ann's father were still alive, he would've been devastated by what's become of his sweet innocent daughter 25 years later: a bitter, alcoholic wife of the abusive David Michelson, who disrespects her mother, disrespects her father's memory, and who obsesses with chasing the ghost of her former self in a vain attempt to change her past. Even more so when you consider she may have driven her past self into her unhappy marriage in the first place.
  • "Walking Distance" has plenty.
    • An overworked thirty-something executive named Martin finds himself magically transported to his hometown as it appeared in his childhood, complete with his youthful self and parents exactly as they were. He desperately tries to connect to the younger Martin, begging him to enjoy his childhood, as it's going to be the happiest time of his life. The "real" Martin is eventually forced to return to the present, sadder but wiser.
    • At one point, Martin's father, who believes the older Martin to be some kind of criminal, realizes that he is in fact his son from the future. The men sit down and talk, with Martin explaining that his life has become so miserable that he just wanted to feel carefree and youthful again. His father sympathizes, but also points out that Martin simply can't stay: it's "one summer to a customer," and Martin already had his chance.
  • In "Back There", the landlady and the cop are absolutely heartbroken to hear that the strange visitor was right, and that Abraham Lincoln has been shot.


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